• Brian Dooreck, MD

Heartburn, GERD, Acid Reflux—Are They Dangerous?

Updated: Aug 11, 2019


Refluxed stomach acid in the esophagus causes a burning sensation

What is GERD?


Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is present when the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) relaxes or does not close properly and stomach contents reflux into the esophagus. The LES is a ring of muscle at the bottom of the esophagus that acts like a valve between the esophagus and stomach preventing food and acid from flowing back into the esophagus.


What is heartburn?


Refluxed stomach acid in the esophagus causes a burning sensation in the chest or throat called heartburn. The fluid may even be tasted in the back of the mouth (acid) or described as regurgitation or indigestion.


Refluxed stomach acid in the esophagus causes a burning sensation in the chest or throat called "heartburn."

Is GERD or heartburn dangerous?


Occasional heartburn is common, however, heartburn more than twice a week is considered GERD and can lead to more serious health problems, including strictures from chronic scarring, Barrett’s esophagus (a precancerous condition), and even esophageal cancer.


Occasional heartburn is common. Heartburn more than twice a week is considered GERD.”

What causes GERD?


A hiatal hernia occurs when the upper part of the stomach is above the diaphragm, the muscle wall that separates the stomach from the chest. Other factors include alcohol, obesity, pregnancy, smoking, citrus fruits, chocolate, caffeine (coffee and cola), fatty and fried foods, garlic, onions, peppermint, spicy foods, and tomato-based foods (sauce, chili, and pizza).


How is GERD treated?


If you smoke, quit. Weight loss and smaller meals may help. Wear loose-fitting clothes and avoid lying down for 3 hours after a meal. Raise the head of your bed 6 to 8 inches by putting blocks of wood under the bed; extra pillows alone will not help. Depending on how severe your GERD is, treatment involves the above lifestyle changes, medications, or surgery.



Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) are a class of very effective drugs for those who suffer from acid reflux and heartburn. There have been many articles on the safety of these medications. I will write on this in the near future. For now, if you need them, use them. If needed for long-term, just check with your doctor.



Personally


I eat a high fiber, mostly plant-based diet, no red meat, drink 4 liters of water a day, exercise, and am focused on "nutrition simplified." No pills. No supplements. No purchased meals.


🥬 Join me when I post “Lunch 🥗 with @dr.dooreck” on LinkedIn.


Eat Smart. Eat Healthy. 🥬 🌾 🥦

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